Dance bookends hall’s lifespan

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RICHARD.DAVISON@nullalliedpress.co.nz

Nostalgia lovers will be able to trip the light fantastic at the Balclutha War Memorial Hall next month.

The 58-year-old hall will be demolished early next year, in preparation for a replacement, $15 million ‘‘Clutha Community Hub’’, and hub project leaders plan to mark the changeover in fitting fashion.

Hub chairman Dale Anderson said the inaugural event held at the new hall in 1962 was a Saturday night ball, in the tradition of the day.

Bringing things full circle, the hall’s closing event would also be a ball, entitled ‘‘The Last Dance’’, on November 14.

‘‘We know the hall has a big place in many local people’s hearts, after it was built using volunteer local labour and contributions.

‘‘Some of our members discovered original tickets showing the old hall opened with a ball, so what better way to respectfully mark its transition into its next phase of community service?’’

Although none of the hub trustees were quite old enough to recall the earliest dances at the hall, many a lively tale had been relayed by siblings and parents, trustee Ken Payne said.

‘‘We’ve all heard the stories from back in the day.

‘‘If you came in the front, you’d wonder where all the men were. Well that was because they were all out the back sharing a Peter [flagon of beer] and building up some Dutch courage.

‘‘The girls would all be standing round the walls and, eventually, the men would get around to asking them to dance.’’

He hoped a cash bar would prevent the need for Peter-sharing next month.

Modern Jive Dunedin dancers Glen and Sheree MacPherson, of Balclutha, said they had ‘‘mixed emotions’’.

‘‘It’s a lovely sprung floor for dancing, and I think everyone will remember a happy night or two,’’ Mrs MacPherson said.

‘‘It’s been an important social hub for the town so it’s sad to see it go. But times move on, I suppose.’’

Mr Anderson said the new facility would also contain an auditorium.

‘‘The new space is a bit bigger, with concertina seats. Who knows . . .maybe we’ll have another ball to celebrate its opening?’’

The hub is expected to open in 2022.